'Plant A Vision Of Hope': How This Alabama Pastor Addresses Climate Change From The Pulpit09:38
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Reverend Michael Malcom talks about his faith based approach to environmental activism. (Alain Jocard/AFP/Getty Images)
Reverend Michael Malcom talks about his faith based approach to environmental activism. (Alain Jocard/AFP/Getty Images)

This story is part of "Covering Climate Now," a week-long global initiative of over 250 news outlets.


Rev. Michael Malcom is not a bystander.

When it comes to climate change, Malcom — pastor of Rush Memorial Congregational United Church of Christ, a mainline Protestant church, and executive director of the People's Justice Council — says it’s his “obligation” as a faith leader and community member to be a steward of God, the Earth and the environment.

As a reverend, he’s invested in elevating the climate conversation because “the way we treat the land and the way we treat people is our relationship with God,” he says.

In the coming decades, the Environmental Protection Agency projects Alabama will be faced with intense heat and “more severe floods and drought.” The state’s agricultural industry will take a hit, with the EPA projecting increased rainfall causing flooding, a reduction in crop production and heat so high it could harm livestock.

Global climate change could cause extreme weather events with massive economic and environmental impacts on food supply, air quality, human health and more.

Reverend Michael Malcom (Courtesy of Rush Memorial Congregational United Church of Christ)
Reverend Michael Malcom (Courtesy of Rush Memorial Congregational United Church of Christ)

The conversation around climate change — and its drastic consequences — needs to supersede political rhetoric, he says.

He preaches that the relationship between the Earth, God and humans is far more important than a battle between left and right.

“It doesn't matter whether you like it or not, [or] where you sit politically … ” he says, “you're still affected by [climate change]. And there is something you can do not to be affected by it.”

Fellow religious leaders need to work together to address “the spiritual and the moral deficiencies” within human greed and overconsumption, something he believes is fueling devastating climate issues.

If humans don’t properly replenish the Earth and reconstruct self-focused societal structures, he says, we’ll reap far-reaching climate implications.

“We see everything as commodities. And we look at people as a commodity. We look at land as commodity,” Malcom says. “We also look at our relationship with God as a commodity. We treat God just like we treat the land and that we just take, take, take.”

Pope Francis, head of the Catholic Church, has also criticized consumerism in “Laudato Si: On Care for our Common Home” — a book where he calls people to environmental action.

Financial institutions are “both part of the problem and its solution,” he said at the 2018 Laudato Si conference in Vatican City.

“There is a real danger that we will leave future generations only rubble, deserts and refuse,” the pope said.

Back in Alabama, Malcom says his message every Sunday on the pulpit — or wherever he gets a platform — is not of despair.

“Climate defeatism is just as bad as climate denialism,” he says.

So he brings his congregation a hopeful, faith-based approach to environmental activism — telling church goers that “we can still win” the urgent fight against climate change.

“We have to work together,” he says, “and we've all got to get in this fight.”


Marcelle Hutchins and Ciku Theuri produced and edited this interview for broadcast with Todd MundtSerena McMahon adapted it for the web. 

This segment aired on September 17, 2019.

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